Archive for June, 2007

Taking Liberties

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

I watched Taking Liberties last week — the official site says:

Right to Protest, Right to Freedom of Speech. Right to Privacy. Right not to be detained without charge, Innocent Until Proven Guilty. Prohibition from Torture. TAKING LIBERTIES will reveal how these six central pillars of liberty have been systematically destroyed by New Labour, and the freedoms of the British people stolen from under their noses amidst a climate of fear created by the media and government itself.

Which is pretty much what it does. It’s a film made up of separate stories, all true, highlighting the erosion of our civil liberties. A film like this could have been a disjointed affair but it’s actually structured in a sensible way that makes it hold together very well as a film. Of course it has a bit of an agenda but the examples they show are still disturbing enough even if they’ve been cherry picked to show the extremes. I’d have liked to see more of the government trying to justify themselves, mostly it’s stock footage and ‘ambush’ interviews, but I guess there wasn’t much chance of getting ol’ Tony to do a sit down interview for a film like this.

All in all it’s an excellent film and one that you really should see, just to see some of the stuff that goes on in the UK.

And last week lots of people did see it, the cinema was quite busy. And noisy. I think because it was a documentary people thought that they could add their own commentary.

Look, I know it’s a film about free speech but shut up! Or at least attempt to whisper your thoughts to your friends. You know, use your inside voice. Don’t bray loudly that about which protesters you’ve met and which fields you’ve camped in.

We might still have to time to save our civil liberties but I fear that old fashioned Great British good manners are beyond help.

Bonus film news, everyone and their dog has already linked to it but just it case you’ve not seen the trailer here’s your runaway summer blockbuster: The Simpsons Movie.

Why Aspray sucks …

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

At the beginning of this year I resolved to do something about my bathroom.

For some reason it has a fake wooden ceiling — I had a sneaking suspicion that it might be hiding some dubious wiring that be the cause of the some lighting problems in the flat.

Anyroads, it was time for the fake ceiling to be removed, I may as well get rid of the water tank too and get the wiring all checked and fixed. So, that’s plumbing, wiring, joinery and probably tiling, painting and plastering too. Time to get a ‘all trades’ company to do this. I phoned three and arranged for them to come have a look.

Only Aspray actually bothered to turn up. I forget who the other two were.

When I pointed out some water damage on a wall the man from Aspray said that that was clearly caused by a leak and this was (at least partly) ‘an insurance job’. Excellent. He waffled on about getting the insurance company to cover all sort of things (tiling, painting, alternative accommodation etc) and said that they’ll “do it all for me”. Wonderful.

Or not.

That was on the 10th on January. Five months ago.

Since then they’ve managed to remove some of the fake ceiling to reveal a very obvious hole in the real ceiling.

And beside that they’ve achieved exactly sod all.

During this time they’ve rarely returned my phone calls, I typically had to call four or five times to get hold of someone. We did get as far as arranging a loss adjuster visit but I had to cancel it at the short notice — this seems to have annoyed them as after that it became impossible to get hold of anyone.

Eventually I wrote to them and a new guy got back to me saying that the dude handling my claim was off work and that “someone should have informed me of this”. Ya think? But not to worry he’d sort it all out.

After two weeks with no contact I write to them again to remind them.

After two more weeks with still no contact. I start phoning again. I leave messages which are never returned.

After a week of this I happen to phone on a bank holiday, and no one is in the office so I’m forwarded to the mobile of the guy originally handling the case. He’s still off work. But he’ll get in touch with new guy and get it sorted. He’ll make sure I’m called back.

After a couple of days I phone again, explain that no one is returning my calls and am given the mobile number of the new guy. It doesn’t work. It’s missing a digit. I call back and explain this. They don’t have another number so I’m promised a call back.

After a day I call again and explain. They give me same mobile number again, nice of them to note not to give out that number. I explain this and they promise a call back.

After a day I call again and ask for an e-mail address and I send an e-mail to both the contact address and the main office address giving them five days to respond. I get an e-mail bounce from the address I was given but the office one goes through.

After five days I give up (you can see I’m fairly patient) and I tell my insurance company they’re not working for me. I send Aspray a letter informing them they’ve no longer working for me. That’s that.

Five months wasted. At the time I assumed they were just incompetent, overworked and badly organised. Writing this I’m wondering if the fake number and bad e-mail were part of a deliberate ploy to avoid customers they don’t want to deal with? Regardless of whether they’re deeply inept or malicious I would never ever use them and I would strongly recommend against anyone else using them. Which is pretty much what this entry does, feel free to pass it along to those who might need to know.

I wouldn’t hold them in such contempt if they’ve just admitted at any point (even right at the end) that they couldn’t do the work and that I’d need to find someone else. All they needed to do was to return any of my calls, letters or e-mails over the last five months.

But they didn’t.

That, my friends, is why Aspray Suck!

Why sucks …

Friday, June 8th, 2007

They’ve outdone themselves.

They’ve actually introduced new bugs into the this year.

You may recall that last year I ranted about the dismal state of the Edinburgh Fringe website. Pretty much everything I said then still applies although the examples and the links obviously don’t work the same. More of that in a second, first we have to address their brand new-for-2007 screw-up.

The title of the site, shown in your bookmarks and at the top of all the pages is “ : official site of the edinburgh festival fringe”. I’ve only just noticed the trendy lack of capitals on Edinburgh, woo. But anyway you’d expect just tapping into your browser would get you there … just like last year … no?

Not likely. Try it, you’ll get a 503 error. Oh no, the site must be down. Nope, they’ve just committed one of the worst web sins around — you need to put in the www. I hate that.

It’s that sort of touch that screams “professionalism”.

To be fair, I imagine that’s just a launch screw up that’ll be fixed soon but it’s not a great start, is it? Edit: And it’s fixed. Only took ’em four days. The ranting after the jump still applies …

Fringe Programme

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

The fringe program goes live tomorrow with tickets on sale next Monday.

Check tomorrow to see if the fringe website gets their act together and launches a glitzy new web doodah for this years program.

Or just a site that’s half-way usable and not horribly broken.

Or a site that’s just not more broken than the previous year.

But don’t hold your breath.

Green Ears

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

If you live in Edinburgh you may have noticed little green ear-shaped signs attached to lampposts around the Leith area. There’s one at the bottom of Leith Walk, outside the Mermaid chip shop, above the sign talking about the drinking ban in the area.

If you’re like me you’ve probably thought “A green ear, that’s a bit odd, I must find out what that’s about” and then promptly forgot about it once you’re ten feet further down the road. But fate has intervened and I found the answer while idly surfing in an effort to avoid work.

The answer, it seems, is [murmur]:

[murmur] is an audio documentary project that collects and presents stories set in specific locations in Edinburgh (in this instance, throughout the area of Leith), as told by the residents of Edinburgh themselves. Ear-shaped [murmur] signs bearing a telephone number and location code mark the places where stories are available for listening. Use the map to find the story locations, and then use your mobile to call the number, enter the location code, and listen to [murmur] stories while you explore the space where the stories took place.

and just in case you think there’s some sort of premium phone rate scam going on:

Alternatively, you may also listen to the stories on this website by clicking the red dots on the map.

Interesting idea, I’ve listened (via the web) to the foot of Leith Walk one and it’s someone reminiscing about their childhood and what the area was like. Interesting, but not terribly ground breaking. I’m surprised they haven’t gone all Web 2.0 and allowed people to upload their own anecdotes but I guess they’re it’s more an art project than a web doodah.

Still it’s worth listening to if you don’t know much of the history of the area. And if you were confused by the green ears, now you know.


Monday, June 4th, 2007

From the “thinking well outside the box” file. Or maybe not far enough outside …

University’s in the states are increasingly offering alumni burial plots or vaults for urns on campus.

“People look back on their college years and say, ‘Those were the best days of my life,’ ” Malkoff said. “Why not spend eternity there?”

Do they? Hell, I enjoyed Uni as much as the next person but I don’t really want to be buried there.

Some people spend half their life at the same job, maybe employers should start offering plots. Or putting urns with the ashes of past managers in the canteen. Although it’s just going to eventually lead to someone trying to make coffee with them.

Maybe pubs could get in on it, finding a permanent spot for their regulars after they’ve supped their last.

Everyone could start doing it, there might be a bidding war for really sought after spots.

Still, it’s making the universities some money and if people want to spend their cash on it I can’t see anything wrong with. Maybe I’m just a bit peeved I didn’t think of it first.

Progress …

Friday, June 1st, 2007

How’s my new years resolution coming along …

People Visited: 18 (4) [May: 15/2]
Places Visited: 8 (2) [May: 7/2]
Countries Visited: 6 (2) [May: 6/2]

I’ve caught up with a few more people but that’s about it. Next month marks the half way point.

See the January post for the details and the rules.